A cidade sitiada / The Besieged City
Novel , 1949
Clarice Lispector’s third book is unlike any of her other novels—it even has a happy ending.
The story of a bustling Brazilian suburb in the 1920s, as seen through the eyes of Lucretia. Hungry for freedom, but tied down by a widowed, self-pitying mother and inappropriate suitors, Lucretia tries both marriage and infidelity. A widow, she returns to the reality of Sao Geraldo.
"Clarice Lispector wrote The Besieged City in Switzerland (“a cemetery of sensations”), where her diplomat husband was posted, in 1948. “What saved me from the monotony of Bern,” Clarice stated, “was living in the Middle Ages and writing The Besieged City … my gratitude to that book is enormous: the effort of writing it saved my life.”Perhaps written in flight from the “shipwreck of introspection,” it is a book unlike any other in the Lispector canon, a novel about simply seeing the external world. Its heroine Lucrécia is utterly mute and unreflective. She may have no inner life.Moreover, the plot itself is utterly unlike any other Lispector narrative: small town gal marries rich man, sees the world, and lives happily ever after.That said, there are miraculous horses, linguistic ecstasies, catty remarks, minor characters’ visions, music from unknown sources. But centrally, there is Lucrécia, the heroine free of the burden of thought, who “leaned over without any individuality, trying merely to look at things directly.” And yet her “mere” looking leads, as Lispector’s biographer Benjamin Moser notes, “paradoxically but inevitably, to Clarice’s own metaphysical concerns. As it turns out, not being profound is simply another way of being profound.” New Directions
"Beautiful."—Los Angeles Times
"Dreamlike, dense, original, this challenging novel has a cumulative power. Highly recommended." —Kirkus (starred review)
"Brilliant, demanding, tempestuous, relentless, exultant.” —Martin Riker, The New York Times
"Sphinx, sorceress, sacred monster, the revival of the hypnotic Clarice Lispector has been one of the true literary events of the twenty-first century. Glittering and savage." —Parul Sehgal, The New York Times
“Lispector made her own rules, free of the world’s constraints, and here, in her third novel, an ordinary story and apparently shallow protagonist are no impediments to formidable experiment…Having read her, one feels different, elated.” —Booklist
“I’m really obsessed by this writer from Brazil, Clarice Lispector. I love her because she writes whole novels where not one thing happens—she describes the air. I think she’s such a great, great novelist.”—John Waters, WM Magazine
“Lispector’s novel offers a pristine view of an ordinary life, told in her forceful, one-of-a-kind voice that captures isolated moments with poetic intensity.”—Publishers Weekly
“Lispector’s prose lilts and sways, its rhythm shakes at once withcloseness and distance. The sensory power Lispector is able to draw from her sentences is here given free rein and the descriptive character of the text is wild with excess, seeking to imbue everything simultaneously with solidity, material presence, and transience, fluidity.” —Music & Literature
“Underneath Lispector’s inventive, modernist style is a poignant and radical depiction of a young woman navigating a patriarchal society.”—The Paris Review